BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Paton-Simpson and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 1996-084

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • A Martin
Dated
Complainant
  • Elizabeth Paton-Simpson
Number
1996-084
Channel/Station
TV3


Summary

Two women who had revealed details of a sexual encounter with a celebrity were

featured in a news item on 3 National News broadcast by TV3 on 26 January 1996

between 6.00–7.00pm.

Elizabeth Paton-Simpson complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster,

that screening of the photographs of one of the women, a former Playboy centrefold

subject, breached broadcasting standards because they were pornographic and

denigratory to women.

TV3 noted first that the item was part of its current affairs segment and not strictly a

news item. It did not accept that what was shown was pornographic in the accepted

sense of the word and did not consider the brief display of the woman's breasts was

indecent in the context of the item. To the complaint that the item denigrated women,

TV3 responded that two of the exemptions to the standard applied. Dissatisfied with

that response, Ms Paton-Simpson referred the complaint to the Broadcasting

Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority upholds the complaint that standard G2 was

breached.


Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed the item complained about and have read

the correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its practice, the Authority

determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Details of a sexual encounter with a celebrity were revealed by two women who had

sold their stories to a women's magazine. The item on 3 National News broadcast on

26 January 1996 between 6.00–7.00pm was illustrated with photographs of one of the

women when she had earlier posed as a Playboy centrefold subject.

Ms Paton-Simpson complained that the inclusion of the Playboy photographs in the

item breached standards G2 and G13 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

She considered the fact that the item was shown in the middle of a news programme

during family viewing time was particularly objectionable, and emphasised that it was

not the explicitness of the pictures to which she objected, but their degrading nature.

In her view, the community, and women in particular, found such material

unacceptable. She argued that since Playboy magazine was classified as objectionable

in the hands of young people because its content was degrading and treated women as

inherently inferior, the photographs themselves breached standard G13.


TV3 assessed the complaint under the standards nominated. They require

broadcasters:

G2 To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency

and taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context

in which any language or behaviour occurs.

G13 To avoid portraying people in a way which represents as inherently

inferior, or is likely to encourage discrimination against, any section of

the community on account of sex, race, age, disability, occupation

status, sexual orientation or the holding of any religious, cultural or

political belief. This requirement is not intended to prevent the

broadcast of material which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely-held opinion in a news or

current affairs programme, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a humorous, satirical or

dramatic work.


TV3 emphasised first that the item was included in Bill Ralston's current affairs

segment of the news, a segment which was associated with interviews, current affairs

and "colour" items, as opposed to strictly news items. It rejected the complaint that

the pictures from a Playboy magazine were pornographic, arguing that the exposure of

the woman's breasts was not beyond the currently accepted norms of decency and

good taste. It pointed to the context of the item, a story about a casual relationship

between the woman and an internationally known actor and director, the brevity of the

exposure, and suggested that the reporter had exercised a considerable degree of

caution in selecting which images should be included in the item. TV3 concluded there

was no breach of the standard requiring observance of good taste and decency.

Turning to the complaint that standard G13 was breached because the item denigrated

women, TV3 doubted that such a brief exposure of the photographs was capable of

encouraging denigration of or discrimination against women. Furthermore, it pointed

to exemptions (i) and (ii) which it considered were relevant and declined to uphold this

aspect of the complaint.

The Authority examines first the alleged contravention of the standard requiring the

observance of good taste and decency. That standard has a contextual element which

includes an assessment of the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the

duration of the offending sequence, the purpose of the photographs and the subject

matter. The Authority acknowledges that the Ralston segment of 3 National News

often contains quirky items with a human interest theme. It also notes that the

Playboy photographs, used to illustrate the story, were on screen for a relatively short

duration and that the item was in the second half of the hour-long news programme.

In the Authority's view, however, the inclusion of the item in the early evening

viewing period was not justified because of its emphasis on adult themes, which were

more suited for screening at a later hour. It considers the item was neither news nor

current affairs, and that it was somewhat distasteful both in its subject matter – the

selling of a story about a sexual encounter with an actor – and the way it was

illustrated, with the nude photographs from a Playboy magazine. It concludes the

item was out of place in the context of an early evening news broadcast and would

have exceeded the expectations of the viewing audience with respect to good taste and

decency. The Authority finds that standard G2 was contravened.

With respect to the complaint that the item encouraged discrimination against women,

or portrayed them as inherently inferior, the Authority concludes that the brief

depiction of the photographs, while distasteful, does not breach the standard. It

draws no conclusion as to the applicability of the exemptions.

 

For the reasons set forth above, the Authority upholds the complaint that a

news item broadcast on 3 National News on 26 January 1996 between 6.00–

7.00pm breaches standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.


It declines to uphold the other aspect of the complaint.


Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make an order under s.13(1) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989. It does not intend to do so on this occasion because it

considers the relatively minor nature of the breach does not justify any order.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judith Potter
Chairperson
1 August 1996


Appendix

Ms Paton-Simpson's Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd - 9 February 1996

Elizabeth Paton-Simpson of Auckland complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd

about an item on 3 National News broadcast on 26 January 1996 between 6.00 -

7.00pm.

The item concerned a former Playboy playmate who had subsequently had a sexual

encounter with Kevin Costner and sold her story to a women's magazine. The story

was illustrated with photographs of the woman when she posed for Playboy.

Ms Paton-Simpson complained that the inclusion of the Playboy photographs

breached standards G2 and G13 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. In

particular she found them objectionable because they were shown during family

viewing time.

She expressed her disappointment at TV3 for "going down the tabloid path".

TV3's Response to the Formal Complaint - 18 April 1996

TV3 noted that the item was part of the Bill Ralston current affairs segment of the

news and that this segment was associated with interviews, current affairs and

"colour" items as opposed to straight news.

It noted that the item was produced by an Australian correspondent and not

specifically commissioned by TV3 news.

Responding to Ms Paton-Simpson's claim that "pornographic photographs" of the

woman were shown, TV3 did not accept that what was shown was pornographic. It

considered the only aspect that could possibly seen to be in breach were the

photographs which showed the woman's breasts. TV3 wrote:

The Committee accepts there could be occasions when the screening of images

of women's breasts would be entirely inappropriate. In this case, the context

was of a Playboy centrefold model having a casual yet intimate relationship

with an internationally famous actor and director, Kevin Costner, subsequently

selling her story to a magazine. The Committee is in no doubt the screening of

the images would not have caused any offence to, or be a breach of privacy of,

Ms Bridget Bloxsam, the woman central to the item.

It also noted that the on-air duration of the images could be measured in seconds and

given the sometimes explicit nature of Playboy photographs, it considered the reporter

had exercised a degree of caution when deciding which images to include. It added:

There have been, and will continue to be, occasions when it will, in context, be

appropriate to screen in general viewing time images similar to those of which

you complain no matter if the images came from Playboy magazine or not.

TV3 concluded that given the nature and duration of the images, and the context in

which they occurred, that it had taken into account considerations of decency and

taste.

With respect to the complaint that the item denigrated women, TV3 advised that it

had difficulty accepting that in the context in which they were shown the brief

depictions were capable of encouraging denigration of or discrimination against

women. It also noted the exemptions to the standard and considered that two of the

exemptions applied to the broadcast.

Finally it noted that this was the only complaint received about the item.

Ms Paton-Simpson's Referral to the Authority - 11 May 1996

Dissatisfied with TV3's decision, Ms Paton-Simpson referred it to the Broadcasting

Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Ms Paton-Simpson repeated that the screening of the Playboy photographs without

warning in the middle of a news programme during family viewing time breached

standards G2 and G13 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

She did not consider that currently accepted standards of decency and taste allowed

the display of a naked woman in sexually provocative poses in the context of a story

about her sexual encounters. In support of her view, she noted the overwhelming

move by British women to ban "page 3 girls" in Britain. She noted that the objection

was not to nudity per se, but to the fact that women felt degraded and humiliated by

those pictures.

Ms Paton-Simpson considered it particularly objectionable that the item should have

been shown when children were watching, noting that Playboy material was classified

under New Zealand law as being indecent in the hands of those under 18. She added:

Though these pictures may not be as explicit as many in Playboy it is the

degrading nature of the pictures rather than their explicitness which makes

them objectionable in modern thinking. As I mentioned in my letter to TV3,

we do not want our daughter subjected to this sort of material in her own

home.

At the very least, she argued, there should be a warning before such items advising that

some viewers may find it offensive.

TV3's Response to the Authority - 23 May 1996

TV3 advised it had no further comment to make.